Monday, February 7, 2011

A Super SUPER BOWL Party!

    Last night was SO much fun! We had close to 50 people over for our Super Bowl party. Everyone seemed to have a good time. Many of us had been dealing with “cabin fever” since Tuesday, so it was especially nice to be able to be with friends and talk and laugh and have a good time. We had A LOT of food, and it was a great football game! One of our friends present was wearing a cheese head and a Green Bay Packers sweatshirt and had yellow pom pons, and we all enjoyed watching her cheer. That added to the fun!
    Even though I was the hostess, I think I probably relaxed just as much as everyone else at the party. If you can pull that off, I think it really helps make a party successful. If the host is happy and relaxed, everyone else will pick up on that. But if the host is frantic, tired and stressed about getting everything done last-minute, that just kills the atmosphere. Your guests can’t relax because you aren’t.
    One of the best party tips I can offer is to do as much as you can ahead of time. Plan out your menu, decorations, etc., and then come up with a timetable for what needs to be done and when. If a food item can be made up in advance and frozen, do it. Make “to do” lists for the days before your party. Buy your party supplies ahead of time before a big event like the Super Bowl, rather than wait last-minute and then have to go from store-to-store trying to find what you need because a lot of places are sold out on certain items.

    Here’s my timetable for last night’s Super Bowl Party:

4 weeks in advance:
--Sent out evites to guests
--Ordered Super Bowl table cloths, plates, napkins, cups, party decorations, games and prizes from an online party store
--Helped my son write Super Bowl trivia quiz

3 weeks in advance:
--Bought prizes for the contests and games at our party

1-2 weeks in advance:
--Assembled homemade egg rolls and froze them
--Made meatballs and froze them
--Made cookie dough “balls” and froze them
--Made brownies and froze them
--Made mini pizza crusts and froze them

1 week in advance:
--Shopped for all foods except for perishables (bought what I could at Costco to save money—chicken wings, beverages, etc.)

3 days in advance:
--Bought super bowl balloons and perishable food items
--Decorated family room with streamers, etc.

2 days in advance:
--Made football cake
--Took meatballs, egg rolls and cookie dough balls out of freezer and put them in refrigerator to thaw

Night before:
--Made Seven Layer Dip
--Prepared pizza toppings for mini pizzas
--Fried egg rolls, let them drain on paper towels, and refrigerated them
--Baked cookies
--Got brownies out of freezer to thaw
--Assembled brownie and cookie trays
--Put tub of frozen margarita mix in freezer

Mid-morning/early afternoon before:
--Got meatballs going in crockpot with BBQ sauce
--Made hot wings in oven; then put them in crockpot on warm
--Arranged center island and counter tops for buffet line
--Last minute tidying of house

One hour before:
--Topped mini pizza appetizers
--Baked egg rolls and other prepared snack foods (mozzarella sticks, mini bagel hot dogs, jalapeño poppers, etc.)
--Put bottled beverages in large buckets with ice for serving

    Here’s a photo of what was going on in my kitchen Saturday night when I was “multi-tasking” for my party. You can see I was frying egg rolls, baking cookie dough balls, and sautéing seasoned ground beef for the pizza, all at the same time.

    I like to cook the egg rolls the day before a party, so that I don’t have a big grease mess in the kitchen right before guests arrive. And then last minute (about 10 minutes before serving them) I just reheat them on a cookie sheet (that’s been lightly sprayed with cooking oil spray) at 400 degrees for about 10 minutes. Pull them out, and they taste fresh, like you just pulled them out of the deep fryer.
    Here’s a pic of some of the egg rolls draining. Dipped in Mae Ploy sweet chili sauce, these are one of my favorite treats! But they are definitely not low calorie. They do have a lot of healthy ingredients inside them. That’s what I keep telling myself.

    Another important party tip that I have been stressing in my blog is to take advantage of short-cuts. I served a lot of homemade foods last night. But not everything was homemade. I think it’s fun to have a wide variety of foods to sample at parties, and to save time, I buy some of them. So I had bought TGI Fridays’ frozen Jalapeno Poppers, one of my guests brought over some frozen mozzarella sticks to bake, and I had ordered some mini bagel hot dogs that just arrived the day before from Chicago.
    These are Vienna Beef mini bagel hot dogs. They are a perfect addition to a Super Bowl party—or any party! I’ve only seen them in grocery stores in the Chicago area and southeastern Wisconsin, where we used to live. But you can buy them mail order, and they’ll get them to you in 1-2 days (they managed to do that this week, despite the deep-freeze that the Central part of the U.S. was experiencing!). I am not crazy about corn dogs, but these bagel hot dogs are a delicious treat. Here’s the website where you can buy them: I figured our friends here in Dallas (where we live now) might really like to try them. I always think it is fun to serve something that is unique, that you had to "import" from another area (and in this case, from Chicago!).

    One last important time-saving tip for parties is don’t be shy about letting your guests bring food items. If your guests ask if they can bring something, let them. Last night people brought beverages, cheese and cracker trays, chips and dips, veggies and dip trays, and some hot appetizers (one of my favorite was barbecued mini hot dogs, which I knew in advance was coming, and I was looking forward to them!). Obviously it can help cut down on expenses and save you on food prep time if your guests bring something. But I’ve also found that many guests actually enjoy being able to bring a dish, to be able to share a favorite food they like to make.
    Finally, one other thing I wanted to comment on is that if you can get your whole family involved in the party, that’s the ideal. That way it's not one person doing all of the work. My 15-year-old son, Brandon, was a big part of last night’s success. He was in charge of the contests and games, and he was a big help.
     Not only that, the Super Bowl party was a way to get Brandon involved with entertaining/hospitality. He is a football maniac if there ever was one! That’s fine, but I’d like to see him take an interest in some other things too. By having him take care of the party games, I was building on something he is already interested in (football).
    I had Brandon plan what games we were going to have, and pick out the prizes. We had a football pool where guests had to guess what the score would be at the end of the 1st quarter, halftime, 3rd quarter and final score. Brandon had guests write down their predictions when they arrived at the party. His football party pool sheet is in the picture below. (We used a football pool poster sheet from a party store, but certainly you could make your own.) The back was blank, but Brandon added more lines there, so that he could have about 40 people play. So there were 20 additional guests who wrote down their predictions on the back.
    Brandon also passed out the football trivia game to everyone who wanted to play (this was a 2-page quiz, and is also in the picture below). During the party, he gave out prizes to the winning guests. When the mom of one of his friends won the football trivia game, he got a real kick out of that, especially since a lot of the questions were REALLY hard. Actually three other moms there won the 1st quarter, halftime and 3rd quarter predictions as well. The guys didn’t do too well last night. Go figure!

    I really enjoyed watching Brandon passing out the prizes and running the games. It was nice to see him interact with some of the “old people” at the party, who he may not normally have talked with in a social setting. The way I look at it, if that happens at one of your parties, that’s an important aspect of true hospitality: getting people to interact with others who they don’t really know so well.

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